For the past couple of years, March 29, 2019 has been known by some in the UK as “Brexit Day,” the historic moment when the country would unmoor itself from the tiresome burden of Europe and float off into a glorious, sun-dappled, immigration-free future.
However, if you’ve been paying attention to the news, or a calendar, you’ll know that Brexit Day has come and gone, with the shambles that is Brexit limping on from extension to humiliating extension. This uncertainty has real-world consequences, one of which is the lack of skilled workers willing to risk moving to the UK when a no-deal, hard-border exit is still a genuine possibility. We’ve covered the impact of Brexit on the British coffee industry before, but since 2017 the issue hasn’t much changed. If anything, it’s become even more muddled. And it may just mean there aren’t enough workers to run the coffee shops.
According to Sky News, Brexit will make it “more difficult to attract applicants from EU countries and that British workers have not yet made up for the shortfall.” And the disparity between foreign-born and home grown workers is significant; Andrea Wareham, an HR manager at Pret a Manger, estimates that “just one in 50 applicants for jobs at the chain are British.” This is amid a bit of a boom in British coffee culture, where the UK coffee shop market grew 7.9% in the previous year, bringing the total value of the industry to £10.1 billion ($13.27 billion). An estimated 6,500 new coffee shops will open over the next four years and will require an additional 40,000 workers.
But the question remains: if there is a no-deal, hard-border Brexit, who will work in British cafes? Skilled European baristas have dozens of friendly cities around Europe with burgeoning specialty coffee scenes would seem a much safer, more hospitable, bet.
This much is certain: come Brexit Halloween, not many will go dressed as baristas.
Fionn Pooler is a journalist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the publisher of The Pourover. Read more Fionn Pooler on Sprudge.